Mechanical behavior of articular cartilage in shear is altered by transection of the anterior cruciate ligament


  • L. A. Setton,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biomedical Engineering and Surgery, Division of Orthopaedic Surgery, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina
    • Department of Biomedical Engineering, Duke University, P.O. Box 90281, Durham, NC 27708-0281, U.S.A.
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  • V. C. Mow,

    1. Orthopaedic Research Laboratory, Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Orthopaedic Surgery, Columbia University, New York, New York
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  • D. S. Howell

    1. Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center, and Veterans Administration Medical Center, Arthritis Division, University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, Florida, U.S.A.
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The flow-independent viscoelastic and equilibrium behaviors of canine articular cartilage were examined with time after transection of the anterior cruciate ligament. The equilibrium, transient, and dynamic shear behaviors of cartilage were studied in biaxial compression-torsion testing at two time periods after transection of the anterior cruciate ligament and at two sites on the femoral condyle, in order to test for differences between sites of frequent and less frequent contact. Water content also was measured in cartilage at sites corresponding to the areas of mechanical testing. Transection of the anterior cruciate ligament produced significant decreases in all measured moduli of articular cartilage tested in equilibrium and dynamic shear and in equilibrium compression; the values for these moduli were 61, 56, and 77% of the control values, respectively, beginning at 6 weeks following transection of the anterior cruciate ligament. There was evidence of increased energy dissipation of cartilage in shear, with a 13 and 35% increase in tan δ at 6 and 12 weeks after transection of the anterior cruciate ligament, respectively. Changes in the viscoelastic relaxation function of cartilage in shear also were evident at 12 weeks after surgery. In all tissue, there was a significant increase in hydration of approximately 4% at 6 or 12 weeks after surgery. There was little difference between the material parameters for areas considered to be in frequent and less frequent contact, with the exception of hydration, which was greater for areas of less frequent contact. The observed changes in material properties demonstrate that relatively short periods of joint instability result in significant changes in the flow-independent viscoelastic behavior of articular cartilage, as well as in the intrinsic stiffnesses in compression and shear.